Craig Finn is a songwriter, singer and storyteller like no other in rock. Few bar bands’ best songs have a verse about John Berryman plummeting to his death or a clairvoyant addict who uses her powers to bet on horses for drug money. He’s got characters: Charlemagne, Holly Lujah, the “eyepatch guy,” Nightclub Dwight. And he’s got nicknames: “I’ve been trying to get people to call me Freddie Knuckles/ But they just call me Drop Dead Fred.” The things his characters do are ominous, from “If we come around the back, we could take them by surprise” to one girl who “got a bloody nose from sniffing margarita mix.” Sometimes their situations are comical: “Now they want to know exactly which bathroom/ Dude, it can’t be important.” And sometimes they’re just celebratory: “We’re gonna build something this summer/ Race up a giant ladder.”

Two bands, one sad (and pedal steel-swathed) solo joint and almost 10 albums later, Finn’s still not running out of things to say; The Hold Steady‘s new Teeth Dreams, for example, ends with nine minutes of “Oaks,” a familiar tale of two doomed addicts. So, let’s celebrate his greatest hits here, from his work in Lifter Pullerand The Hold Steady to his 2012 solo effort. — Dan Weiss